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ISHS Acta Horticulturae 979: II International Symposium on Underutilized Plant Species: Crops for the Future - Beyond Food Security

UNDERUTILISED SPECIES AS THE BACKBONE OF MULTIFUNCTIONAL AGRICULTURE - THE NEXT WAVE OF CROP DOMESTICATION

Authors:   R.R.B. Leakey, E.K. Asaah
Keywords:   agroforestry tree products, commercialisation, environmental rehabilitation, income generation, livelihoods, malnutrition, participatory domestication, poverty alleviation
DOI:   10.17660/ActaHortic.2013.979.31
Abstract:
The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) defined multifunctional agriculture as the inescapable interconnectedness of agriculture’s different roles and functions: namely the production of food and non-food commodities; delivery of environmental services; the improvement of rural livelihoods; and the upholding of traditional crops and local culture. Together these outputs should create greater environmental, social and economic sustainability. These goals mirror those of agroforestry, which has been described as a significant mechanism for the delivery of multifunctional agriculture. Agroforestry outputs are delivered in three steps: i) rehabilitation of degraded land; ii) the domestication of underutilised plant species; and iii) the commercialisation of agroforestry tree products (AFTPs). Interestingly, past crop domestication has been credited with being a “perquisite for the development of settled, politically centralised, socially stratified, economically complex and technologically innovative societies”. While there is good evidence of this, the benefits of modern agriculture based on staple food crops have not been equitably distributed and developing country farmers have been marginalised. In the mid-1990s a new wave of participatory crop domestication was initiated. This second wave of domestication, led by the World Agroforestry Centre, has focused on underutilised tropical trees producing highly nutritious fruits and nuts which provide the everyday needs of smallholder farmers. Recent evidence from Cameroon indicates that the domestication of these new tree crops within an integrated approach to rural development delivering multifunctional agriculture, can transform the lives of poor farmers. It also has positive impacts on the environment and creates new business and employment opportunities in rural communities. Thus it seems that, if widely implemented, this new pro-poor wave of domestication could have large impacts on global food production and the alleviation of malnutrition, hunger and poverty in developing countries.

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